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The Diary of a Country Priest (The Criterion Collection)

Claude Laydu , Nicole Ladmiral , Robert Bresson    Unrated   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All is grace" Aug. 11 2007
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
"Diary of a country priest" (1951), directed by Robert Bresson and based on a well-known novel by Georges Bernanos, is a beautiful masterpiece in black and white. Regarding this film, Bresson said that "(...) I wasn't faithful to the style of Bernanos, and I omitted details which I disliked. But I was faithful to the spirit of the book and to what it inspired in me as I read it".

This film recounts the spiritual journey of a new priest (played by Claude Laydu) that has to face unfriendly people in his first parish at the same time he suffers from ill health and doubts regarding his faith. The story is told mainly thanks to journal entries, something that allows the spectator to be privy to the priest's inner thoughts, and struggle with him when he faces different kinds of problems.

As you can probably imagine, it is not easy to watch this film. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend it, as Bresson manages to capture the anguish and fierceness of the battle played in this young man's heart, and show us that interior drama in excruciating detail.

Belen Alcat
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bresson's vision in daunting simplicity... Feb. 8 2004
Format:DVD
Through the journaling of a young priest the audience can follow the priest's first assignment as he is managing the small parish Ambricourt, which is located on the French countryside. As swiftly as the priest arrives he is discouraged by the unfriendly atmosphere that surrounds him in the village. His discouragement leads him on a path of spiritual and cerebral suffering as he struggles with his faith in God and humanity. Besides the intellectual struggle the priest is suffering physically from an illness in his abdomen that has forced him on a rare diet based on old bread that he softens in sweetened wine. Unselfishly, the priest continues to face-up to the adversity of his environment as he clasps on to remains of his minuscule faith. Bresson's vision of the priest is visually stunning as the film emotionally draws the audience into a vortex of thoughts, feelings, and presence. In the process, Bresson communicates his philosophical message with daunting simplicity as he removes all the miscues that could distort his position. This leaves the viewer with an utterly brilliant cinematic experience as one can sense and reflect on Bresson's revelation of a country priest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange and Beautiful Film Feb. 6 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Diary of a Country Priest, which made Bresson a name in French cinema, is one of the most perplexing films I've ever seen, despite being one of his earliest. Here he begins developing the minimalistic style that would mature throughout the rest of his unprolific career. The editing is furious and bizarre, unlike anything in any other film. Long, forboding shots of natural settings are closed in by barrages of short, clausterphobic indoor shots. Scenes often begin in the middle, or even after the important dramatic events. What I noticed most of all is that sound often preceeds the image -- and many time the screen is black for several seconds, leaving the viewer to absorb and reflect solely on the audio before the visuals kick in. And, oddly enough, reading of the diary is accompanied by the actual shot of the priest writing, defying the cinematic "rule" that sound isn't needed. Bresson makes full use of all cinematic effects, and listening to this film is as important as watching it.
The film is adapted from the French conservative Catholic novelist Bernanos's book of the same title. It is faithful to some degree, but with small, very important departures. A young, sickly priest arrives in a miserable French village and is immediately outcasted by the townspeople. Living off of hard bread and sugared wine (one of many almost too-obvious religious symbols), he desperately tries to make a spiritual difference in the town. The more he tries, however, the more suspicion and scandal is heaped on him by the townspeople, especially the local count, who entertains a mistress while his wife and daughter fall into a bottomless pit of morbidity and hatred. His spiritual failures are echoed by his physical weakness, and at last his constitution gives out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Bresson Nov. 1 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Andrei Tarkovsky said once in an interview that among all the directors who made films of a spiritual nature,(among them Mizoguchi,Bergman, and Kurosawa) Bresson was the most lauded example. This was enough to send me in a frantic hurry to see every one of Bresson's movies. Pickpocket, A Man Escaped, and The Devil Probably were the ones which stood out for me the most, but it was The Diary of a Country Priest,which I saw lastly, that best represented his cinematic vision.(for me) There is almost always a character in his films that takes primacy throughout: Tarkovsky was right in seeing the internal strife of the individual in all of his films, and it is this quality in Diary which creates an absence in the film to which we are given only a glimpse through intricate gestures of the face and by the subtlety of the narrative. The man who played the priest was tremendous not because of any acting, but because of his sheer presence, which was simultaneously an absence. The journal entries are beautifully written and concurrently portray the life of a priest and how any sense of such a Life's selfhood is dispersed into the characters and settings of his periphery. I think this is important because otherwise the film would completely flounder under the weight of an enigma, and the viewer would be completely denied access to such a rich character. It is through his relationship with other members of the parish that we get to know this priest,(not completely I might add) and not simply by the actor who played the role. I really feel that this movie is as a whole the best of Bresson.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ehhhh
This is far from Bresson's best work. In fact, after having read the book, I found this film a disappointment. Read more
Published on June 13 2004 by J from NY
5.0 out of 5 stars The state of art
Is it necessary to say this is mude film with almost unneccesary subtitles. The superb eloquence in Bresson's language supported on Bernanos'story give us the most intimate... Read more
Published on March 26 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Film, bad transfer
It is amazing to me that Criterion would realease such a landmark film of the French Cinema on DVD, in this condition. Read more
Published on March 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film of Intense Luminosity
Bresson's screen adaptation of Bernanos' novel brilliantly plumbs the depths of one soul's quest for redemption. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004 by John C. Allan
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, the miracle of our empty hands!
"When art merges with mysticism, he can only be patient and as empty as possible" Sontag; from the book Transcendenal Style in Film by Paul Schrader. sums it up for me. Read more
Published on June 11 2003 by Yumi
4.0 out of 5 stars The Face of Silence
Bresson set himself a special challenge in making a movie whose central drama is the writing of a diary. Read more
Published on March 7 2003 by Arch Llewellyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Confessions of a Priest
I have not yet seen Bresson's earliest film The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne. That film was based on a Denis Diderot novel and that is not surprising as the Bresson films I have... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2002 by Doug Anderson
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